My tips on how to manage a busy schedule while learning how to code as a parent
Being a parent is tough. Especially when you’re navigating your way through the pandemic. My son started remote learning back in September 2020, and already he’s swamped with three to four live video sessions while having four to five homework assignments daily. Meanwhile, I recently started working full time as a senior support engineer at a remote company. Not to mention, I’ve been doing my best in keeping up with my daily coding lessons, posting articles on my blog, and drawing my webcomics on a weekly basis. I sometimes wonder how the heck I’ve managed to stay afloat even after all this time 😂
Don’t get me wrong - there are moments where I simply wanted to rage quit, move to an island, and forget about my responsibilities. But only a person can dream 😅
Even my Sim's character is wondering if she should get up or stay in bed.
Nevertheless, these moments offer an opportunity to reframe my mind in debugging my own habits. Learning to code takes plenty of willpower, persistence, and problem-solving skills to break down chunks of information into digestible parts. As parents, we’re juggling with so many responsibilities at the home front that it can get overwhelming and often makes us wonder if what we’re doing is right. I’m here to let you know that learning how to code is a huge investment you can make for yourself, which will pay off in the long run.
Without further ado, here are my tips that worked for me (so far) while learning how to code within a busy schedule:
Lower your expectations a bit
Picture this - one night, you’re doing a coding lesson and you get stuck on a problem. Try as you might, you feel defeated because you don’t feel “smart” enough to solve the coding problem from your online class. Then, you hop on Twitter and see your favorite developers posting about their progress on a daily basis while getting so many likes and retweets on their content. Feelings of guilt emerge and you wish you were at their level.
If we were to take a step back and assess the overall situation, we may conclude we’ve been working ourselves to the bone with high expectations on what our results should like on a daily basis. To put it simply, we become control freaks on our surroundings. We want everything to be perfect. And yet, that's the biggest misconception we can all have, when we're simply human and make mistakes all the time.
I’m a believer in meeting goals and overcoming challenges. But if you’re putting your own physical and mental health at risk, then the outcome would be costly to you when you realize that you’re running with an empty tank of gas.
It’s perfectly okay if you’re not performing your best or are taking longer than usual to meet your coding goals. Because of the pandemic, we’re forced to play the juggling act between our responsibilities at home and work. Pick and choose your own battles. Not everything will be an instant win. Just because you may not be coding for longer periods of time in a day doesn’t make you less productive. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, learn to appreciate that any bit of progress is better than nothing at all. And if you miss a day or two from coding? Definitely not the end of the world, especially when family and work matters take precedence.
Find your sweet spot when learning to program without interruption
When it comes to parenting, I like to keep a routine (or at least closely follow it) since I take into account that changes may happen, whether if it’s from my day job, school, family life, or all of the above. On average, this is my typical week:
Weekdays - because the daytime is extremely busy between making sure my son is attending his morning classes while I’m working remotely, I reserve my coding sessions around 7 PM once my son goes to bed after completing his homework, dinner, and bath time. For my coding sessions, I usually spend 1 - 2 hours going over the lessons and build my projects.
Weekends - I’m a bit lenient with my coding time as I’m using these days for rest. Usually, I work on my webcomic, write my articles, and spend time with the family. At night, I would code 30 minutes to an hour. Afterward, I would either play The Sims 4 or read a book.
Every schedule is different, so you may want to do a trial and error to see which time frame you can squeeze in some coding time without interruption. Take, for example, Danny Thompson. He often tweets and posts on LinkedIn that every day at 4 AM he wakes up to do his coding without interruption while everyone in his household sleeps. Maintaining a consistent but flexible schedule will help you stay accountable in your programming journey.
You will get frustrated
Let’s face it - even with a structured schedule, you may find unexpected situations where you won’t be able to code due to life events or find out that the material you’ve been working with doesn’t make any sense. Heck, you may find yourself seeing that one minute the code works, and the next thing, your code ends up breaking after making a slight adjustment.
Programming is not an easy thing to do. Programming is not something that can be learned overnight. And you will run into situations where you’ll feel rage and sadness when things aren’t going your way.
This is an important time to take a step back and breathe. I find that utilizing the Pomodoro technique helps me work on my projects in sprints and promotes taking breaks once you complete your tasks. If you’re part of a developer community, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Oftentimes, you may find that there are others who may have ran into a similar situation with your coding project and would be more than happy to lend a helping hand.
Celebrate what you’ve accomplished
No matter how big or small, take every chance you can get to celebrate your wins. Don’t wait until the whole project is finished for you to celebrate. Instead, break it up into different milestones on what you’ve done. I like to keep a journal every night on what I’ve accomplished in the day. Not only it helps me keep track, but I know that one day once this is over, I can always read back my previous entries and see the progression leading up to completion.
That's all for today!
I hope this article inspires other parents out there who are doing their best in their programming journey while handling family and work responsibilities at home. If you happen to like my article, feel free to share and tweet at me with your thoughts.